Our volunteers are simply brilliant. They really are a fantastic team and always, always come good for us when we have an event on and yesterday was no exception to the rule.
We held our annual Xmas Fayre and Free Pet Health Clinic yesterday at Rainbow Community Centre in Eccles. Despite the usual lack of support from the local paper our 1000 leaflet drop seemed to do the trick and people came along in a steady, manageable trickle all afternoon and much to our surprise, by the end of the day, we had seen 115 animals and microchipped 65 of them! And what a menagerie we saw, thanks to having our exotic vet friend Molly Varga health checking.
1 raccoon - yes, a raccoon
It was funny because I had only been telling someone a few days previously about the growing trend for keeping increasingly diverse exotic animals. We once had skunks at one of our free clinics and that an inspector had recently rescued a stray raccoon. And low and behold would you 'Adam and Eve it' a raccoon appeared at the clinic yesterday. The animal was very well looked after and very beautiful, but it was tinged with sadness for us all because the owners were planning on breeding from her. And before you ask where you get them from there is a pet shop in Manchester that sells them along with Meerkats and Skunks and plenty of other animals that should be left in the wild, in my opinion.
Are we really any better than the old school safari 'trophy hunters'? I mean, have we really moved on all that much if these animals are now being peddled as pets? It makes you wonder really, doesn't it? I mean, when will mankind stop at appropriating animals for its own gain?
As Christmas looms ever nearer there has been a surge in calls from people wanting 'to get rid' of their pets. I promise you this is the exact term of phrase people use. Even someone who had had their dog for 10 years used the term 'get rid' this week and it upset me so much. I confess to having had enough of it all this week and the doldrums have well and truly struck. I'm tired of being expected to have the answers to everything and I'm distressed at the relentless onslaught of unwanted pets and I'm above all fed up with people hell-bent on hating the RSPCA.
It's so bad these days that I am reluctant to tell people where I work if they ask me. And it's not because I ashamed, it's because of the incredible amount of misinformation out there that so often converts to hatred towards our organisation. Two examples of this have arisen this week.
Firstly, there was an article in the Daily Mail about the Turton House Case. When my colleague sent me the link it was attached with a note saying 'I wonder what the truth really is behind this article?' Do you know, it was staggering the allegations made against the RSPCA for alleged 'in action'. And then the comments afterwards from members of the public who were clearly RSPCA haters were just awful. I mean upsettingly awful; but I don't suppose they care.
The very next day I received a document that outlined the true involvement the RSPCA had had with the Turton House Case and my goodness, it was extensive and reassuring. The newspaper article could not have been much further from the truth and in reality the RSPCA (and other horse welfare charities that worked in partnership with us over it) had gone above and beyond in helping to secure these animals' welfare whilst acting within the law.
This is the bit that people seem to fail to understand each and every time they are so quick to criticise - the RSPCA is a charity and does everything voluntarily and has no legal powers. It deeply saddens me why people have such little appreciation for this fact, and, that to prosecute someone costs thousands of pounds. Unless there is substantial evidence (and usually there has to be a vet willing to testify), the charity cannot just throw the money around; it has to justify spending the public's hard-earned, generously donated money.
The other fact that people don't understand is that the RSPCA cannot 'seize' an animal. It has to be the police who do it and invariably the police have to have a vet willingly to go on record saying that it is in the animal's best interest to do so. Again, something that the papers don't bother explaining. It's so frustrating because each time the papers inaccurately report on a case the harm they cause to morale and reputation is so great, yet they get away with it each and every time.
The second reason why I shy away is because of this widespread belief that the RSPCA puts to sleep animals if they haven't found a home in 7 days. Jeeez, if that was true how come we've got animals in our care that have been waiting 14 months to find new homes? So, when I was introduced to someone on a night out on Friday who's first question to me was whether the RSPCA pts after 7 days, I just shook my head and smiled and told the truth. Where does this nonsense even come from? But it's myths like these that perpetuate and breed and develop into contempt towards our organisation that in turn makes doing our work so much harder.
For the time being, the fight has gone out of me because for now, it has all just got a bit too much. I always say that the worst bit about this work isn't the animal rescue side but the people side, and at the moment it has well and truly 'got to me'.